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Find a Transcending Purpose to Motivate Your New Year's Resolution

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Vic: Hello again, Winston!

Winston: Why, hello, Vic. What's on your mind today?

Vic: Well, we talked last time about the difference between self-enhancing purpose and self-transcending purpose. With the new year nearly here, I thought maybe we could relate that conversation to change.

Winston: Well, being a dung beetle, I was the model for change; the model for the Egyptian scarab god Khepri, representing rebirth and transformation. I know a little something about it.

Vic: Please explain to our non-ancient Egyptian audience.

Winston: With pleasure. Khepri would push the sun up into the sky every morning (just as I merrily push my ball). Out of the night's darkness, which they called chaos!

Vic: And out of chaos comes... rebirth.

Winston: Spot-on.

Vic: So my fetid friend, this ball you push...

Winston: A metaphor for purpose, Vic. A Sisyphean task. Remember our last blog?

Vic: Yes, but wasn't Sisyphus cursed with this task???

Winston: On the face of it, yes, but haven't you read Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus? In this essay he concludes: "The struggle itself... is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."

Vic: So Camus thought that a purpose, even an apparently absurd purpose like pushing a boulder...

Winston: ... or a dung ball...

Vic: ... helps us transcend above the darkness, above the chaos of our lives.

Winston: Bingo.

Vic: That's heavy.

Winston: Speaking of heavy, Vic, I notice you're putting on a bit of a spare tire around your equator. Too many cookies during the holiday season?

Vic: I don't want to talk about it.

Winston: Then would you prefer to hear about a New Year's resolution based on a very cool study?

Vic: Be my guest.

Winston: It was recently published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. Aleah Burson and her colleagues first threatened the egos of college students by telling them that their peers excluded them from a group task. The researchers wanted to examine the self-control of these students when their egos were threatened.

Vic: But psychologists have known for a long time that we lose self-control when our egos are threatened.

Winston: True.

Vic: And we know that our egos are being threatened all the time.

Winston: Also true.

Vic: So, what's new?

Winston: This: the researchers had one-third of the students write down their daily routine. This was the control condition. They asked another third of the students to elaborate on their self-enhancing values, and the final third to elaborate on their self-transcending values.

Vic: Self-enhancing values such as...

Winston: Fame, power, attractiveness, wealth.

Vic: As opposed to self-transcending values such as...

Winston: Relationships, community, things bigger than yourself.

Vic: Got it. Then what?

Winston: All three groups -- the control condition, self-enhancing students, and self-transcending students -- were given a bowl of 20 bite-sized cookies and a taste-test form, and told: "Please taste-test these cookies after I leave, eating as many as you want."

Vic: I like this study.

Winston: Thought you would. That was the outcome of the study: How many cookies the students from each of the three groups ate.

Vic: Clever! So how many did they eat?

Winston: The control group ate an average of 8.2 cookies. The self-enhancing students ate an average of 4.9 cookies. The self-transcending students ate and average of only 2.8 cookies!

Vic: 8.2 cookies versus 2.8 cookies. So, to connect the dots...

Winston: ... our core values are the pillars -- the scaffolding -- of a life purpose. Affirming your core transcending values and purpose could lead to greater self-control in a New Year's resolution goal. Beyond the goals you set, creating a New Year's life purpose might be the most important thing you do in 2014.

Vic: How do I start?

Winston: You can write down and write about your core transcending values, then begin to consider your bigger purpose in your life. Or... I actually created an app for this. It helps you identify your core values, then helps you create a purpose in your life. You can find it at Oh, and it's free.

Vic: Happy New Year, Winston.

Winston: Happy New Year, my friend.

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